5 tips to help you avoid the flu this season
The 2013-2014 flu season is in full swing but so far doesn’t appear to be as widespread and dangerous as last year, which was one of the worst in a decade.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says they can’t say for sure which strain will predominate this season but pH1N1 seems to be leading the way. The strain poses a particular threat to middle age and young adults. So far, the flu is being reported in 10 states.
While each flu season is inevitable, getting the flu is not. Prevention is key, many doctors say—avoiding the illness is easier than treating it.
“Influenza is a viral respiratory illness, so it affects the nose, throat and lungs,” said Dr. James Malow, chair of internal medicine and chief of infection control at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “But there are many things you can do to avoid being infected.”
Most importantly, Dr. Malow says, is to get vaccinated against the flu. It’s not too late to get a flu shot or nasal vaccination. However, it does take about two weeks for your body to build up the antibodies against the virus, so it’s important to note that you will not be immediately protected.
Additionally, he offered these tips to help avoid the flu this season:
- Wash your hands frequently, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand gels or lotions. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds to eliminate germs, being certain to wash around your fingernails and up your wrists.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes, using a tissue, handkerchief or the crook of your elbow. If you cough into your hands, wash them before touching anything to avoid possibly spreading illness on to others.
- If possible, limit time in large crowds, especially in tight spaces, where germs are easily spread.
- If you do get sick, stay home! You’ll need the rest and time to heal for yourself and you’ll avoid spreading the infection to your co-workers.
- Keep your immune system healthy and ready to fight off infection by eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercising regularly.
If you do get sick, be sure to contact your primary care physician right away, Dr. Malow says. Avoid the emergency room unless absolutely necessary.
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